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Turkey’s Circassians Demand Equality with Turks and Kurds
PAUL GOBLE
            Staunton, March 8 – The Confederation of Circassian Organizations, together with the Pluralist Democratic Party, is planning demonstrations in Ankara and Istanbul this Sunday to press for a television channel in their national language and for inclusion in the new Turkish constitution on the basis of equality with the Turks and Kurds.
            Selcuk Baglar of the University of Van points out that Turkey is home to Internet broadcasting in 42 different languages and that there are 13 television channels and eight radio channels which broadcast around the clock in four languages – Turkish, English, Kurdish and Arabic (kavkazr.com/a/turetskie-cherkesy-sobirayutsya-zayavit-o-svoikh-pravakh/28356221.html).
                But there are none in Circassian, despite the fact that the Circassians have a prominent role in the state, that they have been promised such broadcasting in the past, and that it is entirely appropriate that they receive that and constitutional equality with the other indigenous nations of Turkey, Baglar continues.
            Turkey must show Russia the way in this regard, he says. “Today in Russia broadcasting in Circassian occurs only two or three hours a day. Most of this is devoted to transmission of local news. Circassians in Russia watch broadcasts of local news in Circassian but they can get international news only in Russian. This is unacceptable.”
            Worse, he says, although Russia is a federal state on paper, it is in fact a unitary one; and Moscow “is trying to destroy the Circassian language,” blocking students from working in it in universities in Circassian areas.  If Turkey forms a Circassian television channel, that will be the basis for the growth of Circassian in Turkey -- and put pressure on Russia as well.
            But there is no time to lose, Baglar says. “Earlier in places of compact residence of Circassians, the imams and efendis were Circassians. In mosques, services were in Circassian. Now, however, this practice has been violated: most imams are Turks who do not know Circassian or the mentality or customs of the Circassians.”
            Later this month, Baglar says, there will be a referendum in Turkey and the Circassians will vote: if the television issue isn’t resolved, “we will call for voting against the government’s proposals.”  But we are confident that it will be resolved and that the rebirth of the Circassian nation will begin in Turkey and extend back to the homeland in the North Caucasus.
            In recent months, Moscow has had difficulty in maintaining relations between the Circassian groups in the North Caucasus it controls and those in the diaspora and especially in Turkey it does not. This new push for a Circassian television channel in Turkey is the first fruits of Moscow’s failure to keep ties even where they were.
            And the likelihood that the Circassians will follow the Kurds and the Arabs as recognized constituent nations in Turkey will only increase their activism and its impact on the Circassian community in the North Caucasus.  Moscow had always thought it could count on Ankara to oppose the Circassians, but now it appears Turkey may be the Circassians news ally.
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